Northwestern heads to West Point on Saturday to try to maintain its unbeaten 2011 campaign. And, as you may have already noticed, playing Army allows writers to throw caution to the wind and break out every hackneyed military metaphor that we can think of as the Wildcats break camp in Evanston and march to New York, with Coach Fitz surveying the game tape, preparing his strategies, and mustering his young men and by the time I'm finished with this sentence I'm pretty sure Coach Fitz will have shot someone in the chest with a Napoleonic war cannon.
Football presents a rare opportunity to use the word "army"
without any pesky articles
This is the first time the Wildcats have played Army since 1988, a 23-7 loss at West Point. That represents a better mark against Northwestern than the Black Knights' bitter rivals Navy who have never beaten the 'Cats in three tries. Air Force, on the other hand, has beaten Northwestern twice this decade, including a hideous 52-3 thumping in 2002 and a 22-21 heartbreaker that was at the time excruciating, but given that since then Northwestern has lost at home to an FCS team, conceded the largest comeback in the history of major college football, lost two bowl games in overtime and another by blowing a 22-0 lead and allowing two consecutive onside kicks run back for touchdowns by the same player, the pain of the Air Force loss has dulled considerably.
PROUDLY BEATING THE FCS SINCE 2006
The Wildcats' victory over Eastern Illinois was heartening as Northwestern ran over the Panthers. Backup quarterback, Northwestern folk hero, and action movie protagonist Kain Colter had a magnificent day with 109 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns. Colter's dynamic running is a fantastic asset for the Wildcat offense, but his propensity for taking a pummeling is worrying. I'm not the only one concerned; according to this Skip Myslenski article, after the BC game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi called up Fitz to congratulate him on the win, but also advised Colter to slide more. "He said, 'My nine-year old son taught (New York Jets QB) Mark Sanchez how to slide and he'll be able to teach you too.'" In exchange, Pat Fitzgerald will serve as Joba Chamberlain's fist pump mentor during 2012 Spring Training.
THE AUSTRALIAN RULES
The AFL season is heating up with the Grand Final slated to take place on October 1. I would like to start watching more Australian Rules football, but I'm afraid that too much exposure to it will cause me to inadvertently figure out the rules of the game and stop enjoying it as a celebration of tank-topped mayhem where anything goes and the only rule is survival.
A typical Australian Rules Football match
While Australians play their football without pads, unique armor forms a bizarre footnote in Australian folklore. In 1880 the Australian bushranger Ned Kelly and his men staged one of the most famous shoot-outs in the history of modern banditry. Surrounded by police in the Glenrowan Inn, they emerged wearing overcoats covering thick, plated armor made from scrap metal. The police were initially shocked that their bullets bounced off the gang. As this intricately detailed wikipedia article describes, one constable whose training to fight outlaws contained no section on terrifying berserker helmets shouted "Look out, boys, it’s the bunyip. He’s bullet-proof!" temporarily confusing Kelly with a horrifying mythical creature. The Kelly armor, however, left the legs exposed and soon the constables shot them down with the precision of a band of mustachioed Parises.
Ned Kelly's armor from the State Library of Victoria (l) and the
understated monument at the Glenrowan tourist attraction Ned
Kelly's Last Stand
Kelly survived the shootout, but only long enough to stand trial and hang. Before the shootout, Kelly left a document explaining where he had come from and how he had turned to his life of crime. The letter is fascinating for a number of reasons, not least because it is entirely bereft of punctuation, making the entire narrative essentially a run-on sentence that dwarfs anything that appears here. The National Museum helpfully provides an audio version. Unfortunately, the actor reading the manuscript pauses in seemingly logical places instead of breathlessly rushing through the document as it was clearly intended to be consumed.
It's also the inspiration for a wonderfully bizarre novel by Peter Carey called True History of the Kelly Gang. The whole novel is written as a sprawling letter by Kelly to a fictional daughter telling his life story. Working off of the Jerilderie Letter, Carey apes Kelly's colorful language and his ramshackle syntax in order to paint a portrait of mid nineteenth century Australia and the desperate circumstances of Kelly's impoverished Irish family that ultimately led him to deadly combat while dressed as a robot from a a 1950s television show with limited robot costuming resources.
Proposed cover for possible sequel True Story of the
Teapot Dome Gang. Albert Fall (l) the Secretary of
the Interior jailed for accepting kickbacks for
granting drilling leases for oil companies, had
earlier successfully defended a man accused of
murdering one of his key rivals. Henry Sinclair,
an oil magnate involved in the affair, served six
months in prison for contempt of court after hiring
detectives to spy on each member of the jury.
A FINAL TEST BEFORE THE BIG TEN
The Army game will be the Wildcats' last opportunity to prepare for conference play (for some reason, Northwestern will play Rice in November). It may also be the last of Kain Colter as the starting quarterback if Persa manages to come back against Illinois and play effectively. But I'm looking forward to Saturday's game most of all to see how the Wildcats cope with Army's unconventional play-calling. Army runs the triple option on offense and double eagle flex defense that Fitz describes as similar to the Bears' old 46 and I describe as an organization that a Wesley Snipes character has likely worked for in a direct to video motion picture. As fun as it is to watch the flexbone in action, it will be far more satisfying to see the Northwestern defense stifle it and for Colter to work his magic without earning the ire of Joe Girardi. I have to like the 'Cats' chances this week, but as the Kelly gang has demonstrated, even the strongest defenses have their weak points, even if your head is covered by discarded plowing equipment.